Women Smoking During Pregnancy Effects On The

Children They Carry Essay, Research Paper

Women Smoking During Pregnancy – - Effects on the Children They Carry:

There are many effects that cigarette smoking

by pregnant women have on their fetuses. The

relationship between maternal smoking and fetal

development shows that smoking can induce

spontaneous abortion, affect birth weight, and

bring about fetal malformations. The long-term

effects of smoking while pregnant on the offspring

are its influence on growth, the chance of SIDS,

respiratory disorders, and behavior.

Smoking while pregnant can affect a baby’s life

immediately, through distorted birth weight and

fetal malformations, or end it, through spontaneous


Spontaneous abortion has been studied from many

angles in order to determine its link to maternal

smoking. Since 1931, many surveys, documents, and

studies have been recorded in this area. The

results of these reports are all in agreement:

smoking while pregnant increases the chance of


There isn’t one reason for this, that can be

applied to every situation, however. Several

theories have risen from the numerous experiments.

One idea is that placental development may be

stunted from the cigarette smoke, which would

render the placenta unable to support a fetus.

Another conclusion is that smoking may cause

abnormal development of the embryo, but this can

rarely be linked directly with smoking. Another

possibility is that smoking affects hormonal

systems that sustain pregnancy, for example,

progesterone, so that the uterus is unable to

support implantation. Tests are being done now to

find other reasons smoking may induce abortion.

One major factor that is probably paid the most

attention to regarding this topic is birth weight.

This is because birth weight is a fairly accurate

barometer of prenatal development. Another reason

is because birth weight is most commonly associated

with maternal smoking. The tests involving birth

weight have been more successful than those

involving spontaneous abortion. Recent studies take

into account the sex of the offspring and racial

and genetic background. With these factors

accounted for, the reductions in birth weight of

infants born to smoking mothers range from forty to

four hundred and thirty grams less than the birth

weights of children born to nonsmoking mothers,

with the average being two hundred grams, or seven

ounces, less.

Also, “smoking infants” tend to be shorter than

“nonsmoking infants”, approximately 1.4 centimeters

shorter, though the major factor is the weight. In

some studies, the circumference of the infant’s

head was significantly reduced, due to maternal


The low birth weight is also affected by the

amount of cigarettes smoked a day. Eight percent of

women who smoke one cigarette a day have babies

with a low birth weight.

Infants born to mothers who smoked while they

were pregnant tend to remain below normal in height

and weight.

The lower the birth rate of an infant is, the

greater the chance of perinatal mortality, also

logically brought about by maternal smoking.

Spontaneous abortions in early pregnancies are

usually associated with malformations and

chromosomal aberrations in the developing fetus. A

study was made by Naeye that death rates due to

malformations increased when the mother smoked more

than ten cigarettes a day. His study included 100

pregnant women who smoked ten cigarettes a day and

100 pregnant women who didn’t smoke at all. The

conclusion was the stillbirth rate of 1.72% for

“smoking babies” as compared to 0.1% for nonsmoking

babies. It was established that malformations due

to maternal smoking triggered stillbirth.

The fetus can also acquire a build-up of patent

ductus arteriosus, which can cause cardiovascular

abnormalities in the future. Also, babies born to

smoking mothers are twice as likely to have

congenital heart disease when they’re older.

The long-term effects smoking while pregnant

can have on an infant can affect them for their

whole life; in growth, respiratory disorders, and

behavior. It can even end the baby’s life early,

through SIDS.

All highly reputed studies on the growth of a

“smoking infant” have come to the same conclusion:

babies born to smoking mothers will most likely

have less height and weight than that of a

“nonsmoking infant”. On the average, a one-year-old

born to a smoking mother will be .3 kg lighter than

its smoke-free peer. At the age of four,

“nonsmoking children” will generally be about .9 cm

taller than a “smoking” four-year-old. This idea

consists through the age of seven in most reports,

but few of the studies found any significant height

or weight difference between “smoking” and

“nonsmoking” children by the age of ten.

SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, occurs

in approximately 2.5 out of 1000 live births. The

name refers to the sudden, often unexplained death

of an infant, usually between one and four months

old. It is presently the leading cause of death in

infants under one year old in the United States.

Five major studies, conducted recently, show

that maternal smoking greatly increases the

probability of SIDS. In one study, 125 children

stricken by crib death were compared with 325

infants, matched for place of birth, gestational

age, date of birth, sex, race, and socioeconomic

status. The results showed that women who had

smoked during their pregnancy were more likely to

die from SIDS than nonsmokers, and the likelihood

increased greatly when the mother smoked more than

six cigarettes per day.

Other investigators have suggested that the

syndrome may result from factors producing a

harmful environment for the developing fetus, which

would include maternal smoking.

Three large-scale studies have been conducted

to demonstrate an association between maternal

smoking and respiratory disorders. Especially

important is the increased occurrence of pneumonia

among children of smokers.

One result from these tests is the possibility

that prenatal smoking and the exposure to this

smoke may have lowered the resistance of these

children to subsequent infections. “Smoking babies”

have a lower amount of lympocytotoxins at the time

of birth than “nonsmoking babies”. This lessened

amount of lympocytotoxins could make the children

less resistant to bacterial and viral infections.

The final long-term effect of maternal smoking

on the offspring involves behavior. The first major

study showed that infants who had been exposed to

nicotine while in the womb were less visually alert

than nicotine-free babies. They also appeared more

dazed, and yawned and sneezed more. In another

study, it was noted that “smoking babies” had a

weaker suck, took longer to begin sucking, and

took longer to complete sucking.

One study consisted of follow-up sessions with

462 four-year-olds with both smoking an nonsmoking

mothers. All the children were from Caucasian,

middle-class suburban families. The study showed

that smokers’ offspring were more likely to

approach strangers, exhibit “negative” behavior

when upset, and were more stubborn and persistent.

Other studies showed that behavioral patterns

in “smoking children” were apparent for many years

and could easily affect the children for their

entire lives.

These are the major effects of maternal

cigarette smoking on the fetus. I think it can be

easily stated that smoking while pregnant can be

detrimental to the child’s future, and can affect

their whole being for the worse.